As you may have already noticed, a lot of people with Twitter accounts personalize the background image for their profile page. Twitter of course allows you to pick one of their predefined background images or use a color picker to set a colored (boring) background.
Some companies pay designers to create their own branded background, you could pay a good designer between 40$ – 200$ for a background image or you could do it yourself. There are a lot of how-to and tutorials to create these background images, but usually one of the things you need in order to follow those instructions is to install Adobe Photoshop.
Good news for you, there’s a FREE and open source application called The GIMP that is a perfect and cheaper alternative to Adobe Photoshop, here I’ll show you how you can create a cool background image for your Twitter profile. Of course if you don’t have it yet, go download and install The GIMP: http://www.gimp.org/ (pssst Windows users click here: http://www.gimp.org/windows/) and keep reading.
1.- Twitter’s Template Size
Twitter uses an adaptative template, they’ve set 1024px width by 768px height as their minimal screen resolution, this is important to remember when creating a background image. If you don’t mind your branding gets hidden when viewing your profile in low resolution screens then you can ignore this. Otherwise you must know the space between the left margin and the content is really small when using 1024px by 768px, you may use a 80px width wrapper for your branding.
I’m using my own screen resolution (1280px by 800px) which is a common used one these days, so we will have 250px from the left margin available for our branding. With this in mind, let’s go to the step 2.
2.- Create the Image
Open The GIMP and create a new image (menu File > New…) 2560px width by 1600 height (see image 1)
Now we are going to add some guides, these are very important when working with fixed templates but shamefully a lot of people ignore them when working with this kind of applications. Go to the menu Image > Guides > New Guide… (see image 2), create two horizontal guides for the first one set 40 and the second one 70, finally create a vertical one set to 235 (see images 3,4,5) the resulting image should look like in image 6.
Another thing I like to do every time I work with images is naming the layers, this is specially useful when we need to modify specific elements inside our image. To change the name of a layer just double-click on the layer’s image and add a new one (see image 7):
Add a new transparent layer called Header to do this click the white page icon on the left bottom corner of the layers sidebar (see image 8):
Now pick the rectangle select tool (press R) and create a selection from the top left corner to the top right corner, from the top border to the 70px horizontal guide (see image 9):
I’m going to show you in the following steps how I created the background image for my Twitter profile. I used the color picker from the left sidebar and selected a dark red hexadecimal code: #c02942 to fill the space with the color select the Bucket Fill tool and clicked inside the selected area, then I used the Navaho pattern to create a colorful border for this header.
Then I added my logos and picked the text tool (press T) to add some text, each time a new layer was created (see image 10):
Remember keeping the content you want to remain visible on the left of the vertical guide (see image 11):
Once you’ve added all the elements you want for your image (remember do not use external images in excess or your image will be too heavy, Twitter limits to 800kb) save your image, you could use JPG but you’ll lose quality without gaining too much compression, I use PNG to keep a good quality with a good compression level.
The GIMP allows you to save images in different formats, first let’s save the image in the source format so you can make changes later, go to the menu File > Save and from the All Images list pick GIMP XCF Image (*.xcf) or just add .xcf to the name of the image (see image 12):
Now let’s save as a PNG image so we can upload it to Twitter, go to the menu File > Save As… and just pick the PNG image or add .png to the name of the image (see image 13):
Finally go to the Design settings page on Twitter (click here https://twitter.com/settings/design), upload your PNG image and save the changes. I invit you to check my Twitter profile @laelitetw so you can see the final background image and follow me . That’s it, if you have questions please use the comment form.